His mother warns: a handful will kill. The nine-year old listens,

to remember, to make it stop. He stands,

from the sofa, like a soldier, head bowed,

battle over, pulls red, white packages.

Tylenol, two in each; the nine-year old measures:

the counter brown, the bowl white, empty packages, himself,

a glass of water, a hand-full, white and red. Swallows:

capsules, like bullets loading: click, click, click. Coldwater sneaks

past trembling lips, wanting gums, willing throat and with trigger pulled,

the nothing comes: tick tock, tick tock, tick tock.

Blue eyes thrust awake, to dark, to drooled carpet, wet cheek and

tongue dry. Brain pounding against his skull, keeping perfect rhythm

with his heart. He stands, unwilling warrior, shoulders fallen, gun jammed


The boy, a man now, red beard thick, like a soldier

shoulders tall, un-proud, blue eyes stare distant, knowing. A woman:

younger than he, brown eyes pleading, thrusts her hand out for his like a child

her hand weathered, torn-soft: like his, he takes it. A handful.

© Michael Barry 2013